Raising SAT Scores or Choosing the Right College?
The New York Times article, “Why Does the SAT Endure?” shares the opinions of students and educators relative to the importance of the SAT and its relevance to college admissions. I would like to examine their comments within the larger college admissions and college-planning context.
Professor David Z. Hambrick, an associate professor psychology at Michigan State University states:
“The SAT works for its intended purpose—predicting success in college…the SAT is largely a measure of general intelligence. Scores on the SAT correlate very highly with scores on standardized tests of intelligence, and like IQ scores, are stable across time and not easily increased through training, coaching or practice. SAT preparation courses appear to work, but the gains are small—on average, no more than about 20 points per section.”
I would respectfully disagree with Professor Hambrick
According to College Results Online, the University of Michigan students have median SAT scores of 625 Verbal and 690 Math. The University of Michigan’s student population is 65.3 percent White, 6.3 percent Black, 11.9 percent Asian, and 4.4 percent Latino and has a 72.7 percent four-year graduation rate.
In contrast, Spelman College students’ median SAT scores of 540 Verbal and 530 Math are 22.9 percent lower than those of students accepted at the University of Michigan. However, Spelman College, whose student population is 91.2 percent Black, boasts a higher four-year graduation rate (75.5 percent) than the University of Michigan.
Contrary to Professor’s Hambrick’s beliefs, the SAT is not a predictor of general intelligence or college success. A much greater predictor is the “college choice,” i.e., where a student enrolls in college.
Fred Oswald, associate professor psychology at Rice University states:
“Decades of research findings on more than a million students indicated that the SAT can identify promising and well prepared high school students. Admissions tests predict college and university grades as well as many other academic professional outcomes.”
The median SAT scores of the freshman class at Rice University are 700 Verbal and 725 Math. The four-year graduation rate at Rice is 82.5 percent. However, despite SAT scores that are 33.2 percent higher than students at Spelman, the four-year graduation rate is only 8.5 percent higher. Subsequently, the 33 percent difference in SAT translates to less than a 10 percent in graduation rates, or college success.
Despite research evidence that suggests that SAT scores are a predictor of college success, there is other research that suggests that the SAT is racially bias. Perhaps students and parents should carefully consider how much time and money they devote to increasing SAT scores as opposed to the time and money they devote to engaging in a good college search to identify the best college for the student to attend.
Despite research evidence that suggests that SAT scores are a predictor of college success, there is other research that suggests that the SAT is racially bias. My advice to students and parents is to carefully consider how much time and money they devote to increasing SAT scores. A much better predictor of college success is:
- Ensure that students take high school classes that adequately prepare students for college, particularly the ability to think, write, and communicate
- Carefully research colleges to ensure the right fit, i.e., size of the school, average class size, graduation rates, institutional concern for student success, the overall climate and culture of the college or university
- The learning environment and institutional belief in the success of its students, i.e., “Does the college care about whether a student is successful and adequately prepared for graduate school or careers.”